Tips from Minnesota Masonic Homes on Making the Holidays Bright for Seniors


As the holiday season approaches, you may find yourself thinking about ways to give back to your loved ones. And if you’re like thousands of Minnesotans, one of your loved ones is spending the holidays in an eldercare facility. How best can you make the season bright for the seniors in your life?

“Quality time with friends and family is what we all want this time of year. It’s not really about the things,” said Shelly Wiggin, administrator of the Minnesota Masonic Homes in Bloomington, MN. “The most important thing is the gift of your time.”

Wiggin should know. She’s charged with managing one of the country’s “2013 Best Nursing Homes” (according to U.S. News & World Report)– a lush, 80-acre campus bordering the Minnesota River that offers a full continuum of care. Minnesota Masonic Homes provides on-site independent living homes, assisted living apartments, long-term care, transitional care, and outpatient therapies. The “Home” has been called home to a number of residents since 1920, when the summer residence of the Minnesota business tycoon, Marion W. Savage, was converted to accommodate those needing care in their later years.

“Visit with the extended family, if possible,” Wiggin adds. “Quality time with friends and family is what we all want this time of year.”

Wiggin believes “sharing” versus “giving” is the best approach to showing elders you care.

“If you really like something, your loved one is probably going to like it,” she said. “Share it.”

Wiggin offers several ideas for sharing and tips for giving to older family members this holiday season:

Soft candies (hard candies can be choking hazards or interfere with dental work)
Non-poisonous plants
Large-print reading materials
Slippers with nonslip soles
Wraps and afghans (older adults tend to feel the chill more quickly)
Massages, hair, and nail appointments (MMH offers all of these services)
Decorations that can be set out of the way (no extension cords)
Non-glass items
Lotions for sensitive skin
Framed artwork from grandchildren
A scrapbook of family photos

Lead an activity (contact the activities coordinator at the facility)
Give a slide show of a recent trip
Read A Cup of Christmas Tea or another holiday classic
Arrange to have live music at a meal
Stroll through the facility with a group of friends and carol
Demonstrate how to crochet a blanket
Share a bit of history or invite a historian in for a lecture
Play an instrument
Bring a pet (many eldercare facilities allow pre-screened domestic animals to visit)
Sponsor a movie night and screen Holiday Inn or another seasonal film
Host a “sing-along” evening

Regardless of how you show your elder loved one that you care, the key is in making sure that that person feels cared for all year long.

“They just want to remember, to be engaged,” said Wiggin. “And that means all of the time, not just during the holidays.”